John Couch Adams
He mathematically deduced the existence of the planet Neptune in 1845
from the effects of its gravitational pull on the motion of Uranus, although it was not
found until 1846 by J G Galle. Adams also studied the Moon's motion, the Leonid meteors,
and terrestrial magnetism.
Adams was born in Landeast, Cornwall, and educated at Cambridge, where he spent virtually
his entire career. He became professor of mathematics at the University of St Andrews,
Fife in 1858, Lowndean professor of astronomy and geometry at Cambridge between 1859-92,
and director of Cambridge observatory between 1861-92.
The calculations to account for certain aberrations in the orbit of Uranus were taken up
independently by Adams and the French astronomer Urbain Leverrier. By 1845 Adams had
determined the position and certain characteristics of the hypothetical planet affecting
the orbit, but a search for the new planet was not instigated for nearly a year at
Cambridge. Meanwhile, Leverrier sent his figures to Galle at the Berlin Observatory, and
Galle, having better maps, was able to find the planet within a few hours. The discovery
of Neptune was credited to Leverrier.
1214 - 1294
English philosopher and scientist.
He was interested in alchemy, the biological and physical sciences and
magic. Many discoveries have been credited to him, including the magnifying lens. He
foresaw the extensive use of gunpowder and mechanical cars, boats, and planes.
In 1266, at the invitation of his friend Pope Clement IV, he began his Opus majus / Great
Work, a compendium of all branches of knowledge. In 1268 he sent this with his Opus minus
/ Lesser Work and other writings to the pope. In 1277 Bacon was condemned and imprisoned
by the Christian church for `certain novelties´ (heresy) and not released until 1292.
Bacon wrote in Latin and his works include On Mirrors, Metaphysical and On the
Multiplication of Species. He followed the maxim ` Cease to be ruled by dogmas and
authorities; look at the world!´
Bacon was born in Somerset and educated at Oxford and Paris. He became a Franciscan monk
and lectured in Paris about 1241-47, then at Oxford University. He described a
hypothetical diving apparatus and some of the properties of gunpowder. He promoted the use
of latitude and longitude in mapmaking, and suggested the changes necessary to improve the
Western calendar that were carried out by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582.
Sir George Cayley
1773 - 1857
He is recognized as the founder of aerodynamics on the basis of his
pioneering experiments and studies of the principles of flight. He experimented with wing
design, distinguished between lift and drag, formulated the concepts of vertical tail
surfaces, steering rudders, rear elevators, and air screws, and built the world's first
glider capable of carrying a human (1853). Cayley was also a founder of the Regent Street
Polytechnic, London. It is generally accepted that the airplane was invented by Sir George
Cayley in 1799 at Brompton, near Scarborough in Yorkshire in the United Kingdom. In 1909
Wilbur Wright himself paid Cayley the following tribute:
"About 100 years ago, an Englishman
carried the science of flight to a point
which it had never reached before and which it scarcely reached again during the last
1809 - 1882
Darwin is known as the discoverer of natural selection.
Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, England. He studied medicine at Edinburgh, then
biology at Cambridge. In 1831 he became the naturalist on HMS Beagle, which was to make a
scientific survey of South American waters, and returned in 1836. By 1846 he had published
several works on his geological and zoological discoveries, but he devoted most of his
time to his major work 'On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection' (1859). He
postulated that natural selection was the agent for the transmutation of organism during
He then worked on a series of supplemental treatises, including 'The Descent of Man'
(1871), which postulated the descent of the human race from the anthropoid group. At first
Darwin was attacked as an infidel atheist declaring the Bible a lie, but he replied that
it increased God's grandeur to believe that the universe had been created with evolution
Sir George Everest
1790 - 1866
Born in Breconshire, Wales. He worked on the trigonometrical survey of India from 1806 to
1843. He became superintendent of the survey in 1823 and surveyor general of India in
1830. Mount Everest is named for him. He was knighted in 1861.
British physicist and chemist, best known for his discoveries of
electromagnetic induction and of the laws of electrolysis.
Faraday was born on September 22, 1791, in Newington, Surrey, England. He was the son of a
blacksmith and received little formal education. While apprenticed to a bookbinder in
London, he read books on scientific subjects and experimented with electricity. In 1812 he
attended a series of lectures given by the British chemist Sir Humphry Davy and forwarded
the notes he took at these lectures to Davy, together with a request for employment. Davy
employed Faraday as an assistant in his chemical laboratory at the Royal Institution and
in 1813 took Faraday with him on an extended tour of Europe. Faraday was elected to the
Royal Society in 1824 and the following year was appointed director of the laboratory of
the Royal Institution. In 1833 he succeeded Davy as professor of chemistry at the
institution. Two years later he was given a pension of 300 pounds per year for life.
Faraday was the recipient of many scientific honors, including the Royal and Rumford
medals of the Royal Society; he was also offered the presidency of the society but
declined the honor. He died on August 25, 1867, near Hampton Court, Surrey.
Faraday's earliest researches were in the field of chemistry, following the lead of Davy.
A study of chlorine, which Faraday included in his researches, led to the discovery of two
new chlorides of carbon. He also discovered benzene. Faraday investigated a number of new
varieties of optical glass. In a series of experiments he was successful in liquefying a
number of common gases.
The research that established Faraday as the foremost experimental scientist of his day
was, however, in the fields of electricity and magnetism. In 1821 he plotted the magnetic
field around a conductor carrying an electric current. In 1831 Faraday followed this
accomplishment with the discovery of electromagnetic induction and in the same year
demonstrated the induction of one electric current by another. During this same period of
research he investigated the phenomena of electrolysis and discovered two fundamental
laws: that the amount of chemical action produced by an electrical current in an
electrolyte is proportional to the amount of electricity passing through the electrolyte;
and that the amount of a substance deposited from an electrolyte by the action of a
current is proportional to the chemical equivalent weight of the substance.In
experimenting with magnetism, Faraday made two discoveries of great importance; one was
the existence of diamagnetism, and the other was the fact that a magnetic field has the
power to rotate the plane of polarized light passing through certain types of glass.
In addition to a number of papers for learned journals, Faraday wrote Chemical
Manipulation (1827), Experimental Researches in Electricity (1844-55), and Experimental
Researches in Chemistry and Physics (1859).
Sir Alexander Fleming
British bacteriologist and Nobel laureate, best known for his
discovery of penicillin. Born near Darvel, Scotland, and educated at Saint
Mary's Hospital Medical School of the University of London, he served as
professor of bacteriology at St. Mary's Hospital Medical School from 1928 to
1948, when he became professor emeritus.
Fleming conducted outstanding research in bacteriology, chemotherapy, and
immunology. In 1922 he discovered lysozyme, an antiseptic found in tears, body
secretions, albumen, and certain fish plants. His discovery of penicillin came
about accidentally in 1928 in the course of research on influenza. His
observation that the mold contaminating one of his culture plates had destroyed
the bacteria laid the basis for the development of penicillin therapy (see
Fleming was knighted in 1944. In 1945 he shared the Nobel Prize in physiology or
medicine with the British scientists Howard Walter Florey and Ernst Boris Chain
for their contributions to the development of penicillin.
1560 – 2 July 1621
English astronomer, mathematician, ethnographer and translator. Sometimes credited with the introduction of the potato to Great Britain and Ireland, Harriot's major contribution to British history was the creation of the first ever drawings of the celestial moon after peering through a telescope in July 1609, before Galileo who is commonly thought of being the first.
After graduating from Oxford University, Harriot traveled to the Americas on expeditions funded by Raleigh, and on his return he worked for the 9th Earl of Northumberland. At the Earl's house, he became a prolific mathematician and astronomer to whom the theory of refraction is attributed.
Born in 1560 in Oxford, England, Thomas Harriot attended St Mary Hall, Oxford. His name appears in the school's registry that dates back from 1577. After his graduation from Oxford in 1580, Harriot was first hired by Sir Walter Raleigh as a mathematics tutor, was also involved in designing Raleigh's ships and served as his accountant. During this time he also wrote a treatise on navigation prior to his expedition with Raleigh.
As a scientific adviser during the voyage, Harriot was asked by Raleigh to find the most efficient way to stack cannon balls on the deck of the ship. His ensuing theory about the close-packing of spheres shows a striking resemblance to atomism and modern atomic theory.
Halley's Comet in 1607 turned Harriot's attention towards astronomy. In early 1609 he bought a "Dutch trunke" telescope, invented in 1608, and his observations were amongst the first uses of a telescope for astronomy. Harriot is now credited as the first astronomer to draw an astronomical object after viewing it through a telescope, a map of the Moon on July 26, 1609 and also to observe sunspots in December 1610.
He also studied optics and refraction and discovered Snell's law 20 years before Snellius did, although, like so many of his works, this remained unpublished.
Stephen (William) Hawking
Hawking was born in Oxford, studied at Oxford and Cambridge, and became
professor of mathematics at Cambridge in 1979. He is confined to a wheelchair because of a
rare and progressive neuromotor disease. His work in general relativity - particularly
gravitational field theory - led to a search for a quantum theory of gravity to explain
black holes and the Big Bang, singularities that classical relativity theory does not
adequately explain. His book A Brief History of Time 1988 gives a popular account of
cosmology and became an international bestseller. Hawking's objective of producing an
overall synthesis of quantum mechanics and relativity theory began around the time of the
publication in 1973 of his seminal book The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time, written
with G F R Ellis. His most remarkable result, published in 1974, was that black holes
could in fact emit particles in the form of thermal radiation - the so-called Hawking
Sir Isaac Newton
1642 - 1727
Isaac Newton is one of the greatest names in the history of human thought.
Newton was born in Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire, UK. He studied at Cambridge. Legend has it
that the fall of an apple initiated the train of thought that led to the law of
gravitation. As professor of mathematics at Cambridge he worked on his famous Philosophiae
naturalis principia mathematica, which supplied a complete proof of the law of
gravitation. This law explained celestial motions, the tides, and terrestial gravitation,
and is regarded as one of the greatest scientific achievements.
He deveolped a new kind of mathematics known as the calculus. He also invented the
reflecting telescope, and discovered that white light is a combination of all colors by
using prisms. Newton sat in parliament on two occasions, was elected President of the
Royal Society in 1703, and was knighted in 1705.